Two-Face

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Batman #234 © 1971 DC Comics. COVER ART BY NEAL ADAMS.

Two-Face

(pop culture)
Harvey Kent had the world on a string. Introduced in Detective Comics #66 (1942) in a story by Bill Finger and Bob Kane, Gotham City's youngest district attorney had great things predicted for his future. He was engaged to an adoring young woman named Gilda, and was so handsome he was nicknamed “Apollo.” A champion of law and justice, it was thought that Kent's prosecution of gangster “Boss” Moroni would be his greatest blow yet to the criminal underworld of Gotham City. But when Kent proved Moroni was present at a crime scene through the discovery of a two-faced silver dollar Moroni carried as a good luck charm, the crime boss became enraged and threw a vial of acid into Kent's face. The acid was prevented from totally disfiguring Kent by the actions of Batman, who was testifying against Moroni, and who was able to deflect the trajectory of the acid vial. Only the left side of Kent's face was disfigured, turned into a mass of sagging, decayed flesh—but that proved sufficient. Kent, driven mad by the incident, disfigured one of the faces of Moroni's double-faced silver dollar and became a criminal, calling himself Two-Face. Consonant with his new persona, Two-Face adopted the motif of duality for all his crimes, basing them all around the number two, such as robbing a messenger riding a double-decker bus and holding up the patrons of a movie theater viewing a double feature. And, when faced with a crucial decision, such as killing a captured Batman or letting him live, Two-Face flips his two-headed coin, letting whichever side lands face up determine his decision, the unscarred face representing “good,” the scarred face representing “evil.” Eventually, “Apollo” Kent's face was restored by a brilliant plastic surgeon, bringing an end to the career of Two-Face, if only briefly. For a time, the appearances of Two-Face were variations on a theme. Three times it appeared that Harvey Kent had resumed his criminal career as Two-Face, but he was being framed, the first instance occurring in Batman #50 (1948–1949), when district attorney's butler Wilkins masqueraded as Two-Face. (At this point, Kent's last name was changed to “Dent” to eliminate any conflict or confusion with Clark Kent, the secret identity of Superman, although Michael L. Fleisher, in his 1976 tome The Encyclopedia of Comic Book Heroes, vol. 1: Batman, ascribes this change to a “chronicler's error.”) Then Paul Sloane, an actor playing Harvey Dent in a television recreation of the Two-Face story, was disfigured when real acid was substituted for colored water in a recreation of “Boss” Moroni's trial, and he resumed Two-Face's criminal career. This story, “The New Crimes of Two-Face” (Batman #68, 1951–1952), is also of historical interest, for when it was reprinted in Batman Annual #3 (1962), the disfiguring sequence was redrawn to show a klieg light exploding in Sloane's face, rather than portraying the “imitable behavior” of throwing acid, which the Comics Code, adopted in 1954, prohibited. Lastly, in Detective Comics #187 (1952), theater manager George Blake disguises himself as Two-Face, but is exposed by Batman, who realizes that Blake had disfigured the wrong side of his face with makeup. Finally, in Batman #81 (1954), the inevitable happened. Dent's plastic surgery was shattered in an explosion, restoring his visage to that of Two- Face—forever. Dent is tempted to resume his former life of crime, but leaves the final decision to his two-headed coin. When the scarred side lands face up, Dent's decision is irrevocably made. Two-Face's return, however, was short-lived; this issue was his last appearance for over a decade. Perhaps thought too freakish to be featured in new stories after the institution of the Comics Code, Two-Face's next appearance was not until World's Finest Comics #173, in 1968. He returned to the Batman title with issue #234 in 1971. Since then, Harvey Dent has committed one crime after another as Two-Face, and has time after time been incarcerated at Arkham Asylum in Gotham City by Batman. Of all Batman's bizarre foes, Two-Face is one of the few for whom Batman harbors genuine sympathy, for he realizes Two-Face, though mad, is not evil, and his madness is not of his own making. Whenever they meet, Batman refers to Two-Face only as “Harvey,” perhaps an attempt to remind Two-Face of the friendship they once shared. Sometimes variations to the basic Two-Face story are grafted onto the character's legend, for better or for worse. One 1976 story attempted to convince readers that Harvey Dent was not the target of “Boss” Moroni's acid-throwing spree, while a 1996 story tells readers that Harvey Dent was subjected to abuse as a child, making his already-damaged psyche that much more prone to fall into Two-Face's madness. A woman claiming to be Two-Face's daughter, Duella Dent, appeared in DC comics in the 1970s, but rarely has been seen since. Interestingly, in 1946, a second Two-Face was created. In the Batman syndicated comic strip for Sunday, June 23, 1946, an actor named Harvey Apollo was disfigured in circumstances similar to those of Harvey Dent's. This story, which is not considered part of the Batman comic book continuity, ran until August 18, 1946, ending with Two- Face's tragic death. Is imitation the sincerest form of flattery? Chester Gould, creator of comic strip lawman Dick Tracy, introduced in 1967 a character, half of whose face was disfigured, under the name Haf-n- Haf. Despite this similarity, students of Gould's work do not feel Gould was imitating Two-Face, claiming that Gould, to avoid charges of unoriginality, would not have used this character if he had been aware of the older Batman villain. The original character of Two-Face, despite these Two-Face imposters, is kept fresh by constant interaction with Batman and his supporting cast. When the character of Dick Grayson became a teenager and a younger boy, Jason Todd, became the second Robin, Todd carried a grudge against Two-Face for having killed his father, a small-time criminal. Jason had the opportunity to kill Two- Face, but chose justice over revenge. Despite having such narrow parameters for his stories, Two-Face stays as current as the calendar. The villain was a vital supporting character in Frank Miller's ground-breaking miniseries Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (1986), evolving a complex plan around the twin World Trade Centers. He attempted to steal for ransom the Constitution of the United States, “the second-most important document in American history,” in 1987, the 200th anniversary of its writing, and in 2000 he tried to take over Gotham City during a spell of Y2K paranoia. There seem to be no end of permutations to Two-Face's schemes, and Batman's most tragic enemy seems set to devil the Dark Knight until at least the twenty-second century. Two-Face continues to appear in the 2000s, both in the comic books and in media adaptations. Throughout the 1990s Richard Moll voiced Two- Face in several episodes of Batman: the Animated Series (1992–1995) and its continuations; in the cartoons, the villain's scarred skin hue was altered from the comics' purple to light blue. Tommy Lee Jones played Two-Face in the film Batman Forever (1995), in a performance that perhaps was a little over the top in showcasing the character's insanity. He characteristically supplied himself with two molls: Sugar, a “good girl” portrayed by Drew Barrymore, and Spice, a “bad girl” performed by Debi Mazar. This media exposure garnered an enthusiastic following for Two-Face, and there's been no stopping since, neither to his comic-book appearances, nor to his merchandising. These include a 1989 action figure from Toy Biz with a scarred coin accessory; several figures based on the version of the character from Batman: The Animated Series; a Batman Forever action figure in 1995 in Jones' likeness, with a “Turbo-Charge Cannon” accessory; a 2005 figure by Kia Asamiya, imported from Japan and limited to 10,000 copies; and, also in 2005, an action figure based on artist Tim Sale's version of the character from the Batman: The Long Halloween series. Two-Face continues to oppose Batman, despite the risk that he may eventually defeat the Dark Knight, and come in first.
The Supervillain Book: The Evil Side of Comics and Hollywood © 2006 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.
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